Articles Posted in Mississippi Supreme Court

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Ricky Franklin was convicted on one count of kidnapping and on one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to thirty years and twenty years, respectively, to run consecutively. A mistrial was entered for one count of forcible rape, and a not-guilty verdict was entered for one count of sexual Franklin was denied his motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) or, in the alternative, for a new trial. He appealed, arguing the trial court erred: (1) in refusing to instruct the jury on simple assault as a lesser-included offense of aggravated assault, (2) in allowing improper opinion testimony from numerous witnesses concerning whether a bottle could cause serious bodily injury, (3) in allowing prejudicial hearsay statements allegedly made to police; (4) in allowing inflammatory statements in the prosecution's closing argument to violate his right to a fair trial; and (5) in denying Franklin's motion to dismiss for violation of his right to a speedy trial. Upon careful consideration of the trial court record, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded Franklin's conviction of aggravated assault under issue one; the Court did not reach issue two, and affirmed the trial court on all other issues raised on appeal. View "Franklin v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Martin and Star Pierce were married in Mississippi in 2000, and divorced in Washington state in 2007. Because the Washington court lacked personal jurisdiction over Star, it did not divide the parties' assets. Subsequently, Martin brought an action in Mississippi requesting sale of the parties' Biloxi home and determination of the parties' financial obligations incurred during the marriage. Star filed a counterclaim requesting equitable distribution of the marital assets, alimony, and attorney's fees. The chancellor equitably divided the parties' assets and awarded Star alimony and attorney's fees. Martin appealed the chancellor's judgment, and the Court of Appeals reversed the property division and remanded for further proceedings. On remand, Martin raised two jurisdictional challenges for the first time: (1) he argued that the Washington judgment was res judicata as to Star's claims for equitable distribution and alimony, therefore the chancery court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to divide the parties' assets.; (2) he also argued that because he never consented to the chancery court's jurisdiction, the chancery court lacked personal jurisdiction to divide his military retirement benefits under the Federal Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act. Upon review, the Supreme Court found no reversible error. Accordingly the Court affirmed the chancery court's decision. View "Pierce v. Pierce" on Justia Law

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When legendary blues musician Robert Johnson died intestate in 1938, he had no money and appeared to have left no assets to distribute to heirs, so no estate was opened at that time. But the increasing popularity of Johnson's music over the years following his death led Steven LaVere, a music producer from Tennessee who owned Delta Haze Corporation, to contact Johnson's half-sister, Carrie Thompson, about previously unpublished photographs of Johnson. Believing Thompson to be Johnson's only heir, LaVere requested the photographs to launch a new release of Johnson's music. The legatees of Carrie Thompson sought to recover royalties and fees from the use of two photographs that were ultimately used in the project. Among the several reasons the trial court denied their claim was that the statute of limitations had expired. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Anderson v. LaVere" on Justia Law

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Minor Zachary Stringer was charged with the murder of his younger brother, Justin. The jury found Zachary guilty of the lesser-included offense of manslaughter. The trial court sentenced Zachary to twenty years, with ten years to serve and ten years of post-release supervision, with five years reporting. Zachary appealed his conviction and sentence, arguing: (1) the trial court erred by allowing multiple gruesome photographs of the victim and the crime scene into evidence; and (2) the trial court erred in denying his motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV). Finding no error, the Supreme Court affirmed Zachary's conviction and sentence. View "Stringer v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Department of Revenue assessed taxes, penalties, and interest against Isle of Capri Casino, Inc. and its affiliated entities for tax years 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007. The Department based the assessment on the application of the license fees as a credit, claiming that only the tax liability of four Isle of Capri entities that actually held the licenses were eligible for offset, and could not benefit the affiliated group as a whole. Isle of Capri appealed the Department's assessment first to the Board of Review and then to the Board of Tax Appeals; both affirmed the assessment with minor changes. Isle of Capri appealed again, and the chancery court granted summary judgment in its favor. The Department subsequently appealed. Finding no error in the chancery court's decision, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Mississippi Department of Revenue v. Isle of Capri Casino, Inc." on Justia Law

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Machon Lyons suffered severe injuries as the result of an automobile accident. The accident occurred when a vehicle operated by Roderick Holliday left the road and collided with a tree. As a result, Lyons obtained a default judgment of $72,500 against Holliday. Holliday's mother, Daisy Lang, insured the vehicle through Direct General Insurance Company of Mississippi. Lang's policy included a provision specifically excluding Holliday from any coverage under the policy. Accordingly, Direct denied coverage for the judgment. Lyons sought a declaratory judgment, asking the Circuit Court to hold that Lang's policy covered the judgment against Holliday. Lyons acknowledged the policy exclusion, but argued that Lang's policy covered the judgment against Holliday because Mississippi law required minimum-liability coverage for all permissive drivers, and because Lang's insurance card failed to mention any permissive-driver exclusions. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Direct, finding that the policy clearly and specifically excluded coverage of Holliday. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding that 63-15-4(2)(a) required liability insurance for all vehicles operated in Mississippi and that Mississippi Code Section 63-15-43 required that the liability insurance policy "pay on behalf of the named insured and any other person, as insured, using any such motor vehicle or motor vehicles with the express or implied permission of such named insured." Although the Court of Appeals reached the right result, it cited as its authority the incorrect statute, so the Supreme Court granted certiorari. The Court concluded the policy exclusion violated Mississippi law: even though Holliday was an excluded driver under the Direct General policy issued to Daisy Lang, the exclusion did not operate to eliminate liability coverage in the minimum amounts required by statute. The trial court's grant of summary judgment was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Lyons v. Direct General Insurance Company of Mississippi " on Justia Law

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The Chancery Court appointed conservators over the person and estate of Stuart Irby. Approximately one year later, Karen Collins Irby, Stuart's ex-wife, filed pleadings to invalidate the conservatorship and set aside the transactions of the conservators. The chancery court denied Karen's petition, and she appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Collins v. Pinnacle Trust" on Justia Law

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J. C. Williams was convicted of the sale of cocaine. He was adjudicated a habitual offender and a subsequent drug offender, and as such, his sentence was enhanced to forty years in the custody of the Department of Corrections (MDOC), with thirty years to serve and ten years suspended. On appeal, Williams argued that the circuit court "erred in amending the indictment to charge him as a habitual offender." The Court of Appeals rejected that argument and affirmed. Following that denial, Williams filed a pro se petition for the writ of certiorari, which was granted. The Supreme Court found that Williams was provided adequate notice in advance of trial that, upon conviction, the State intended to seek enhanced punishment under Section 99-19-81. However, the State failed to provide adequate notice of its intent to seek enhanced punishment under Section 41-29-147. Thus, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgments of the Court of Appeals and the Circuit Court and remanded this case for a new sentencing hearing, where Williams was to be resentenced as a habitual offender under Section 99-19-81 only. View "Williams v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Department of Employment Security determined that distributors for Sara Lee Bakery Group, Inc. (now Earthgrains Bakery Group, Inc.) were agent drivers and commission drivers for Sara Lee, rather than independent contractors, such that Sara Lee was required to pay unemployment insurance taxes for the distributors. The circuit court affirmed, and Sara Lee appealed. Finding that MDES failed to apply the law correctly and that its decision was not supported by substantial evidence, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Earthgrains Bakery Group, Inc. v. Mississippi Dept. of Employment Security" on Justia Law

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William Andrew Short (Andy) and Kathryn Taylor Short were divorced in 2007. As part of the divorce judgment, the parties entered into a property, child-support, and child custody agreement stipulating that Andy would pay child support until the child began kindergarten; thereafter, he would pay fifteen percent of his adjusted gross income. In 2011, Kathryn filed a complaint for contempt, alleging that Andy had failed to make child-support payments. Andy filed a counter-complaint for custody and to modify child support. Andy alleged a material change in circumstances because of a significant reduction in his adjusted gross income, requiring a new child-support calculation. The chancellor found that no material change in circumstances had occurred and ordered Andy to continue paying the minimum requirement of child support, pursuant to the original child-support agreement. Andy appealed, arguing that the chancellor had disregarded statutory child-support guidelines, that the child-support provision in the parties’ agreement violated Mississippi law, and that the chancellor had erred in calculating Andy’s adjusted gross income. The Court of Appeals affirmed, finding no error. Andy filed a petition for writ of certiorari, arguing (among other things) that the Court of Appeals had failed to address his argument that the automatic child-support-calculation clause violated Mississippi law. The Supreme Court found that the chancellor erred in calculating Andy’s monthly income during his determination of whether a material change in circumstances existed. Further, the chancellor’s ruling erroneously indicated that the parties’ child-support agreement was nonmodifiable. Therefore, the judgments of both the Court of Appeals and the trial court were reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings. View "Short v. Short" on Justia Law